Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Wild Horse


Wild Horse
A wild horse near Death Valley Junction, CA


Its not everyday that you can still see wild horses roaming around the west. But every time we drive through the Chicago Valley area, which spans the desert basin between Shoshone, CA and Death Valley Junction, CA, we seem to see one or more! The area is managed by the BLM especially for the wild horses, believed to be left over from old ranching operations. Now the horses are wild and free, and every once in a while, you can see them traveling in herds, or alone (like the one we saw in April). According to what I understood from the BLM, the herd size is managed to about 12 horses in the Chicago Valley. Their population is a controversial topic, because technically they are not native. All the wild horses in the west are descended from abandoned or escaped ranch horses. If their population gets larger than what the BLM has set as the limit to "maintain ecological balance," then they are periodically removed (nevermind that the BLM is highly influenced by ranchers, who don't like wild horses interfering with their cattles' well being). The wild horses are literally rounded up and sent to a government training program, or offered to the public at auctions or adoption agencies. Sometimes they are killed and the meat is shipped to Asia (I'm not joking!). There was a great article in National Geographic in the February 2009 issue about wild horses in the west. From there I learned that many of the horses that are rounded up and trained are actually trained by prison inmates (government cheap labor) and later sent to other government institutions where horses might be needed, like the mounted police. Its all very interesting if you look into it. Now that I know, it seems to spoil what I had in my head about the iconic wild horse in the west. They aren't really free and wild after all. :-(

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